Former Colburn primary headmaster and teacher banned from teaching over Sats test dishonesty

Former school headteacher Mike Watt has been banned from teaching.

A former headmaster and a teacher have been banned from teaching after a panel found they had dishonestly helped children at Colburn Primary School take their Sats tests.

Ex-head Mike Watt and former year six teacher Emma Kelly have both been prohibited from teaching indefinitely and must wait four years before they can apply for the order to be lifted.

Local authority investigators acting on behalf of the Standards and Testing Agency were called in after concerns were raised about key stage two English tests taken in 2018.

Their findings were passed to the Teaching Regulation Agency which held professional conduct panels for both teachers last month.

The panel found it proven that the pair had caused maladministration because they passed off a pupils’ writing they had helped with as work the student had done independently.

The teachers were also found to have also “excessively scaffolded” work done by students, meaning they gave too much help and guidance.

The acts to improve the children’s Sats results meant their behaviour had “lacked integrity and/or dishonesty” because they had sought to “unfairly improve assessment outcomes for one or more pupils”.

The panel heard evidence from several people including children who had taken the tests.

Both teachers denied the allegations.

One pupil told how Mr Watt had written a paragraph on the whiteboard and the class to write their own version, but not to copy.

The pupil explained that Mr Watt told the pupils to change words if they were not clear. Mr Watt then wrote another paragraph and the pupils wrote their own second paragraphs.

The pupil said that her work was marked with an “I” to indicate it was independent work, but this was not her handwriting.

The panel was shown written work by eight different pupils which showed “significant and striking similarities” to a letter written by Miss Kelly.

The similarities included the order and topic of the paragraphs, the structure of the paragraphs, the phrasing, punctuation and vocabulary.

Although pupils were allowed to discuss their ideas with their classmates on the same table, the class room had six tables  and the examples were from pupils sat on several different tables.

The panel concluded: “On balance, the panel found that the pupils were provided with support from Miss Kelly,
which amounted to excessive scaffolding.

“The panel also found that the work was then passed off as independent for the purposes of assessment.

“In light of the above, the panel found that Miss Kelly had caused maladministration in that she excessively scaffolded pupil’s work and then passed off such guided work as independent for the purpose of assessment.”

One pupil told investigators they got annoyed when Miss Kelly helped them.

The pupil said: “When I would do work by myself with my own ideas Miss Kelly would sometimes tell me to stop
and look at the example of the board and use that.”

“I got annoyed when Miss Kelly told me to stop what I was doing and use the board as I had my own ideas.”

Issuing an indefinite prohibition order which cannot be reviewed for four years, decision maker John Knowles said the pair had been guilty of serious dishonesty.

He said the fact that neither teacher accepted the panel’s findings meant they had shown a lack of insight meaning there was a risk of “the repetition of this behaviour and this puts at risk the future wellbeing of pupils”.

Both teachers left their jobs at the school on December 31, 2018.

Following the investigation, it was decided to annul the outcomes for the key stage two English writing for all pupils within the cohort at Colburn Primary School.

It was later decided that some pupils would not receive any results for the Key Stage 2 tests and would not receive an overall standard for English grammar, punctuation and spelling, English reading or mathematics.